As an everyday beverage, orange juice has come under fire in recent years, purportedly due to its sugar content. However, a new study that compares 100% orange juice with orange flavored beverages reveals that sugars alone likely do not tell the whole story.
The paper, titled Health outcomes of 100% orange juice and orange flavored beverage: A comparative analysis of gut microbiota and metabolomics in rats was published in the journal Current Research in Food Science.
The researchers from China Agricultural University in Beijing used rats to study the effects of drinking 100% orange juice as compared with orange drinks that have similar sugar content, but lack the other nutrients and phytochemicals found in whole fruit juice. The orange drink in question was a popular mix that contained up to 10% real juice along with other ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup, granulated sugar and other food additives.
Composition wise, the orange juice tested higher in sucrose as well as flavonoids, while the orange drink was higher in both glucose and fructose.
Specifically, the researchers looked at the effects of consuming both beverages on gut microbiota as well as the metabolic system. The differences became clear over the 4-week testing period.
- The rats who consumed the orange drink ate more food, and gained more weight;
- The orange drink induced renal (kidney) disorder;
- The orange drink also caused an increase in kidney mass;
- The rats drinking orange juice had a richer and more diverse gut microbiota;
- Drinking orange juice was also associated with a decreased Firmicutes/Bacteroidota ratio, which is generally accepted as a measure that influences and regulates the intestinal functions. An imbalance is a marker of obesity as well as inflammatory bowel disease.
- The Firmicutes/Bacteroidota ratio was related to the flavonoids in the orange juice.
Metabolic syndrome, which is linked to obesity, diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is largely the result of an imbalanced diet. Over the long term, it adversely affects the gut microbiota, and through it, the metabolic system.
In their summary, the researchers note that, despite the fact that the two beverages contained roughly the same amount of free sugars, the effects on health were vastly different. It points to the idea that isolating a single component of whole foods doesn’t give you the whole picture.